Referencing a second song from the musical Carnival. I’m getting a lot of mileage out of that show.
I started out yesterday mentioning what felt like an unmistakable Ooh-Ahh-Chorus “Call” to a career in theater and my decision not to take that particular call. The narrative then segued into a list of viable reasons for that destiny-denying determination.
THE THEATER: “We are not upset about that. We have plenty of eager applicants.”
Good. That’s one less thing to feel guilty about.
“Although it’s not nice to “poo-poo” a “Calling.”
Aaand we're back.
Were the provided reasons for sidestepping theater in favor of a career in television credible? Yes. They were thoughtful and persuasive reasons, a combination of which – or some of them alone – readily rising to the level of “Acceptable Explanation.”
The question then was not “Were they good reasons or bad reasons?” but “Why do we need reasons at all?”
The answer apparently to which is,
“Shut up. We just do.”
A response, although rude, seeming demonstrably accurate.
A child gets their finger slammed in a door. After the crying and “Emergency medical treatment” – necessary or otherwise – their explanatory answer to their misfortune is,
That’s their reason it happened. The “malevolent door”, as the liable culprit.
And the “answer” calms them. They may whimper – possibly for attention or a “Boo-hoo”-salving sugary cookie – but they eventually settle down. The hysterics are gone. They determined a (n inanimate) reason for the tragic incident, and they blissfully move on.
Behold: “‘Reason’ as Medicine.”
Speaking of medicine, three summers ago, I contracted “Legionnaire’s Disease.” Why did that happen? (As in, “Why did the door slam the kid’s finger”?) My Primary Care physician offered his professional assessment.
“It was the standing water in your hot tub.”
Was it really the standing water in my hot tub that gave me “Legionnaire’s Disease”?
Totally irrelevant. I had a confirmed “A Doctuh said that” reason, providing (relative) “closure.” People ask, “How did you get ‘Legionnaire’s Disease’?” I say, “It was the hot tub”, and we’re on to the next unexplainable illness.
And then, there’s my favorite.
The psychologist, hired to design a test to determine the recruits’ combat readiness in the Israeli army. The test proved in practice to be an absolute failure.
The Israeli army kept using it anyway.
They had a “reasonable” strategy in place. So they held onto it. Even though it was useless.
That’s how important reasons are. We cling to them desperately, including the ones that are provably terrible.
We just need to have reasons.
What’s religion? (And what has it always been?)
An accepted explanatory reason.
“Why did that happen?”
That worked for thousands of years, whether God was an invisible entity or a statue of a cat. The “inexplicable” occurred; people accepted the recognized reason.
“God sent a plague of locusts to consume our entire annual food supply?’
“Wait. Why did God do that?”
“As a punishment for our earthly iniquity.”
Then, the “Enlightenment” occurred. (I guess God thought that was okay.)
“Reasons” were now tested by direct personal experience. Religion – as the answer to everything– for, I’d say the majority of us – became invalidated as the “go-to” explanatory medium. But we can’t live with nothing. And we don’t. When “traditional reasons” lose their liturgical mojo,
Say hello to “Natural Science.”
NATURAL SCIENCE: “We may not be able to explain everything… yet, but stick with our “Method” and we’ll show you ‘The Way’.”
And, by the way, “Phew!”
Even though, if you have a virus, the prescribed method of handling it is to wait it out.
“Wait it out”?
We could have stuck with religion.
“Your eternal reward for waiting it out.”
Why do we need reasons so desperately? And believe me, we do. We have a name for when two things surprisingly happen together with no detectable causal connection. We call it a coincidence. It’s a tenuous descriptive. But at least it’s a reason.
Imagine a world without reasons.
Quoting a line from a David Mamet movie, after Alec Baldwin shakily emerges from a recent car accident:
“Well. That happened.”
That’s our lives without reasons. Day and night, things would fly randomly at us. “That happened.” And “That happened.” And “That happened.” I’m getting winded just thinking about it.
A lifetime of “That happeneds” – you become terminally unbalanced, no stabilizing anchor to explain what exactly is going on. We can ‘t live that way! We need help!
Say hello to “Reasons.”
Both accurate and otherwise.
There’s a third part to this, about whether, not just “reasons” but reason itself is more than a pacifying illusion. I’m not sure I can pull that one off. But I’ll take a shot at it tomorrow.
Hey! Who doesn’t love philosophy?
A (Possibly) Welcome Reprieve:
I shall take a brief break from this grueling enterprise for some Fourth of July ruminations. Then it's back to the intellectual salt mines.
Just so you'll stay tuned a day longer. (Or, conversely, stay away.)